This section of the website contains JCRC/AJC-issued news releases
January 10, 2017 – The Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit commend the Michigan State Legislature and Governor Rick Snyder for making Michigan the sixteenth state to outlaw and condemn discrimination against Israel and Israelis.
HB 5821 and 5822 were sponsored by Representatives Al Pscholka, Robert Wittenberg, Mike Callton, Jeremy Moss and Andy Schor, and prohibit the state from contracting with a business that boycotts a strategic partner of the United States. Representative Brad Jacobsen, Senator Jim Marleau, and Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof were also instrumental in the passage of this legislation. Michigan is one of a growing number of states in the country to respond legislatively to national origin discrimination. The bill received bipartisan support.
This initiative was championed by Dennis Bernard, past chair, Government Relations Oversight Committee of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit, and Aaron Bernard, past president of TAMID at the University of Michigan.
“This bill sends a strong statement that the State of Michigan stands with Israel, which has long been an important trading partner of Michigan. It will solidify that relationship and prevent companies which boycott Israel based on national origin from doing business with the state of Michigan,” said David Kurzmann, Executive Director of JCRC/AJC. “This is a significant step against prejudice.” These bills protect Michigan’s economy from efforts to restrict trade with Israel, efforts which are being promoted by the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS). They affirm Michigan’s economic, business and cultural relationship with Israel by prohibiting the state from doing business with entities which are involved in an anti-Israel boycott.
BDS initiatives sever the economic ties between Israel and its Palestinian neighbors and therefore are counter-productive to finding a long term lasting peace. BDS activists have become increasingly sophisticated in their attempt to isolate Israel from the international community. These bills send a strong signal that the state of Michigan opposes efforts to isolate Israel and its economy.
The State of Michigan has long been a trading partner with Israel and thanks to this legislation, that connection will not be hindered. Michigan businesses conduct hundreds of millions of dollars a year in exports and commerce with Israel.
National advocacy organizations Israel Action Network, StandWithUs, Israel Allies Foundation, and The Israel Project deserve praise for their involvement as well.
Jewish Community Welcomes Muslim Neighbors
To Join In Annual Christmas Day Volunteering Tradition
Detroit’s Jewish community will mark the first full day of Chanukah by welcoming fellow volunteers from the area’s Muslim community on Sunday, December 25 to take part in Mitzvah Day, the annual single largest day of volunteering by Detroit’s Jewish community. Volunteers of all ages will participate in dozens of social service projects throughout metro Detroit so that their Christian neighbors can celebrate Christmas at home with their families.
Mitzvah Day is presented by the Jewish Community Relations Council/ajc and the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Drawing on the shared value of community service, nearly 1,000 Jewish volunteers will be joined for the seventh year by their Muslim neighbors to take part in “mitzvahs” (good deeds), aiding Detroit area social service agencies at 46 different community sites on Christmas Day. The Michigan Muslim Community Council is coordinating volunteer participation from the local Muslim community for Mitzvah Day.
Volunteer teams will fan out to pre-assigned sites throughout metro Detroit. Project times vary, running between 6:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. Many grandparents, parents and children will volunteer together as families. In the spirit of giving back to the community, volunteers will donate a few hours of their time to participate in a variety of activities, including visits to older adults in nursing care facilities, preparing and serving holiday meals, and delivering toys and gifts to families in need.
Mitzvah Day event chairs are Micki Grossman, Illana Stern and Milt Neuman. For more information about Mitzvah Day, call the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC, 248-642-5393.
JCRC/AJC To Host "Escape From Yemen" Program
Mohammed Al-Samawi and Dan Pincus will share their personal story of a Muslim-Jewish partnership that overcame differences and stereotypes to recuse Mohammed from the grips of war-torn Yemen, at a program sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Michigan Muslim Community Council, on Sunday, November 13 at 2:30 pm at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham.
In March 2015, Mohammed Al-Samawi was forced to flee his home city of Sana’a, Yemen after receiving death threats for his activities promoting relations between Yemeni Muslims and Israeli Jews. He was in Aden Yemen when he found himself caught in a three-way crossfire between Yemeni Houthis invading the Al Qaeda-controlled city, while a Saudi Arabian-led coalition navy and air force imposed a naval blockade and aerial bombardment. Desperate for any assistance, Mohammed reached out to his network of American and Israeli friends whom he had met at interfaith conferences. Together, this team orchestrated an unlikely evacuation from the war and his immigration to the United States, where he continues his work building peaceful relationships across national and religious lines.
Today, Al-Samawi lives in Washington D.C. where he works for the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, doing research on religious extremism in Yemen and Pakistan. He travels the country with Pincus, to tell their story of a partnership and friendship that crossed borders to achieve a miracle, and to speak to the importance of a Muslim-Jewish dialogue and interfaith relations. A consultant with The Quantic Group, Pincus, who lives in New York, is passionate about interfaith relations and arts, he serves on the boards of American Jewish Committee, Muslim Jewish Conference, Beit Hatfusot, Gamelatron Foundation.
During their Detroit visit, Al-Samawi and Pincus will also speak at a special evening for young professionals, Escape from Yemen: A Night of Muslim Jewish Dialogue at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, November 12, at the Center for Creative Studies – Taubman Center in Detroit. The program is sponsored by Access Detroit, Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC and the Muslim-Jewish Forum.
Statement On Presidential Election By Dr. Richard Krugel, President of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC
“The presidential election has highlighted the deep divisions that exist in our nation. This climate has given rise to hate speech, bias incidents and intolerance. Local incidents of racism, anti-immigrant activity and anti-Semitism have engendered great fear, uncertainty and vulnerability and must not be tolerated. No matter how one voted, now is the time to build ties with other ethnic and religious communities and advocate for civility and an inclusive society.
“As a nation of diverse faiths, ethnicities and identities, we must protect our freedoms and maintain the struggle for equality and fairness in our society. The Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC will continue to fulfill our mission of working together with all communities as we pursue social justice, stand up for Israel and fight against bigotry. We are committed to protecting democratic freedoms, developing peaceful relationships among Americans, promoting mutual respect, fostering understanding and celebrating diversity.
“President Obama, President-elect Trump and Secretary Clinton last week all called for unity. We must now heed that message. Unity doesn't mean that we always agree on everything, but we should never lose sight of our shared goals and values as we seek to make a brighter future for us, our children and our grandchildren. “
JCRC/AJC Holds October Meetings With Diplomats In Chicago And Detroit
Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC board members joined six Midwest AJC regional offices for a day of diplomacy and advocacy in Chicago as part of the Midwest Diplomatic Marathon. For the seventh consecutive year, local participants spent the day in Chicago meeting with Consuls General. In all, advocates held meetings with 27 country representatives
Among the topics discussed were: holding Iran to account, combatting anti-Semitism in Europe and elsewhere, advancing Israeli-Palestinian peace, promoting cooperation between Israel and Arab states, and ending bias against Israel in the United Nations.
This was a particularly important time for advocacy in the aftermath of the UNESCO vote to isolate and censure the Jewish state and negate the millennia-old links between the Jewish people and their ancient homeland.
Meetings continued the following week in Detroit as JCRC/AJC advocates met with the Mexican Consul General and thanked him for Mexico’s reversal of its vote on the UNESCO issue. The representatives also met with the honorary Consuls General of Germany and the United Kingdom.
The Following Statement On Immigration was issued on September 21, 2016 by Dr. Richard Krugel, President of the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC:
“We are greatly dismayed by the anti-refugee sentiments that have recently been expressed in Oakland County. It is particularly disheartening that this is occurring during National Welcoming Week, a time dedicated to bringing together immigrants and U.S.-born residents in a spirit of unity.
“Oakland County is home to the majority of the Michigan Jewish community. We are keenly aware of a time in American history when Jewish refugees were turned away from America’s shores, not able to land after glimpsing America’s symbolic welcoming figure, the Statue of Liberty. We must not return to those ugly times.
“Today, we celebrate Oakland County as a welcoming and diverse community. Oakland County’s immigrants provide both an economic engine and an affirmation of the American dream. The Jewish community cherishes that reality, and works to maintain the welcome mat for those who flee war and persecution to begin new lives in our community.”
Detroit Jewish Community Mourns The Loss Of Shimon Peres
The Detroit Jewish community deeply mourns the loss of Shimon Peres, z”l, one of our generation’s greatest leaders and visionaries. Peres was by every definition an indefatigable advocate for peace and ambassador for the Jewish people and our homeland. His eternal optimism and lifelong commitment were a guiding force, as he dedicated himself to realizing the potential of the Jewish State to benefit all mankind though diplomacy, innovation and medical and scientific advancements.
Recognized as Israel’s greatest elder statesman, Peres was a master diplomat well into his 90s. His wisdom and grace influenced generations of Jewish leaders, including many from our own community. Over the years, several leaders from Detroit had the honor and privilege of working with and getting to know Peres. All would agree that being in his presence was nothing short of inspiring.
Peres was the last of the founding generation of the State of Israel. As a child, Peres immigrated to Israel from Poland with his family in 1934, joined the army as a young man, and at age 30 became Director General of the Defense Ministry. His career as a central figure in Israeli leadership spanned over five decades and included holding nearly every cabinet position, serving twice as Prime Minister and once as President of the State of Israel. The world honored him with the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994 and in 2012 President Obama awarded him the Medal of Freedom.
On behalf of the Detroit Jewish community, the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit and the Jewish Community Relations Council/AJC pray that the memory of Shimon Peres be forever a blessing. (9-29-2016)
The JCRC/AJC Applauds The Historic Memorandum Of Understanding (MOU) On Military Assistance Between The United States And Israel
The agreement includes $38 billion in weapons development, intelligence sharing, military aid and strategic cooperation with Israel over the next ten years. The MOU demonstrates America's continued bi-partisan commitment to Israel's security, her people, and the deep connections that link our two nations.
This financial commitment secures Israel's existence as the only Jewish state and helps to safeguard its future in an unstable and dangerous region. The decade-long commitment to strengthen the relationship goes far beyond the sometimes reported and usually short-lived tensions between various U.S. and Israeli administrations throughout history, putting into proper perspective the nearly 69-year U.S.-Israel partnership and alliance.
The strength of the U.S-Israel relationship is reflected in the fact that the MOU represents the largest pledge of U.S. foreign military aid ever to any country. It is a key step forward both in sustaining this relationship and ensuring Israel's long-term safety, security and future. The significant increase in funding from the past agreement reflects America's understanding of Israel's right to defend its people from the threats it faces along its borders and beyond, and promotes both American and Israeli strategic interests throughout the Middle East.
In addition, the MOU expresses deep bonds and ties between the American and Israeli peoples. With almost all of the funds to be spent in the U.S., it strikes a blow to those who wish to boycott and isolate Israel economically. This is particularly important here in Michigan, where the defense industry plays such a key role in our state’s economy. , The MOU has the potential to provide a significant bump to Michigan’s local defense industries and improve our state’s bottom line.
The administration and both houses of Congress should be praised for their work on the agreement and their support for Israel. We express our gratitude to President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu, for their leadership and cooperation to get the deal done before the end of President Obama's term of office.
Despite this good news, local Jewish communities such as Detroit's are not off the hook regarding advocating for Israel and fighting the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement. Yes, there was broad support in the administration, the Congress and the U.S. military for the MOU. And there was no significant public opposition to the deal, along with support from the media.. Reflecting this, polls show a majority of support for Israel by the American public.
But anti-Israel groups remain active. There is a large segment of the public which is unknowing or indifferent to Israel's cause. Detroit Jewry needs to remain vigilant and work to educate our youth and other constituencies, and effectively advocate for Israel among leadership and influentials in government, academia, media, the interfaith community, organized labor and business. The JCRC/AJC is the leading Israel advocacy organization in metro Detroit, and will continue to involve our volunteers, other Jewish organizations, rabbis, synagogues, interfaith friends of Israel and others in this work. We invite you to join us in our efforts to combat BDS and help to build upon the reach of the MOU to ensure the safety, security and future of Israel. (9-2016)